“The name’s Robert Ladell. Prior to the Rapture I spent most of my life serving God’s own America in the Marine Corps. These days I’m just another one of the millions of unfortunate souls living in Hell on Earth. Wait’n out God’s return and the end of this tribulation. Bible says he’s a few years overdue.” So speaks the character called Mouse, opening the third chapter of the saga of Bethany Black, the Strange Girl.
Ten years after the Rapture, Earth has become a literal Hell, inhabited by demons and a handful of increasingly desperate humans, many of whom are kept as slaves. Bethany and Mouse are two of a very small number of humans who are still free, fighting hard just to get by. They have one enormous problem on top of everything else: Bethany has a $100,000,000 reward on her head, put there by Lord Belial due to things that Bethany did in the previous two chapters. Naturally, such a huge reward attracts bounty hunters, and this issue deals with Bethany and Mouse’s battle with the bounty hunters and its aftermath.
Rick Remender has delivered a fascinating and thoughtful exploration of Bethany’s life and battles over the first two chapters of the Strange Girl saga, and this issue continues that work. I found myself really fascinated by the idea of a society of demons, wondering about the complexity of life that Bethany and Mouse lived. Bethany’s and Mouse’s life had to have literally been like living in a war zone, trying to dodge bullets everywhere they turned. The fact that such a life only seems to have made Bethany stronger makes her a really interesting character. As the cover blurb states, Bethany is forgotten by God, powered by darkness, and that dichotomy in her is fascinating to me.
I believe this is the first issue of this series illustrated by Nick Stakal, but his work fits this series at least as well as his predecessors’ work did. This art has a kind of visceral darkness to it, a grim element that does a beautiful job of conveying the miser and horror of the characters’ lives. His demons are especially interesting. Stakal seems to have a very definite look to his demons, as each is unique but similar in the way that distant members of a family look.
As this issue ends, there seems to be new hope for Bethany, but the next issue promises her journey will take her to Hell. I’m not sure how much worse Hell can be than New York City in this comic book.